Think Big or Don’t Think!

A very good friend who is also a Rabbi sends me some great words of wisdom on the weekly Torah portion each week. I suggested he start a blog. I think I have convinced him. Ultimately, it is a great way to hone your writing skills and to have a place to look back on how your thoughts have evolved, like a journal does. I was quite interested in an interview I heard last week between Penn Jillete and Tim Ferriss. Penn Jillete, the magician that is part of Penn and Teller, has kept a journal for many years and when he writes an entry he looks back at what he wrote 10 years ago on the same day to see where his mind was and how his thoughts have evolved.

When I explained that I thought eventually he would need a full website and newsletter, he said, “Wow, you think big.” I said spontaneously “Think big or don’t think.” Time is precious but one thing is certain, in keeping with Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, if I am only for myself, what am I, if not now, when?” Now is the time to refine your thinking through writing because this makes you a more functional human being capable for helping others, especially if that involves imparting education.

The main challenge is finding your unique voice. People spend a lifetime trying to mimic others who they see as great. But, as my teacher, of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD taught me, to do so, is a form of idolatry. Find and use the TOOLS of others to help you, but to see another as greater than you when you are made in the image of God and serve a unique purpose on this earth is to become an idolater, by placing something you think greater than you between you and God.

Authenticity is the way to go. In fact for most of us, I think, our life is about finding out our unique contribution. A lesson can be learned from the saint / tzaddik Reb Zusha of Anapoli. As it is recorded in HaAchim HaKedoshim: Reb Zusha was laying on his deathbed surrounded by his disciples. He was crying and no one could comfort him. One student asked his Rebbe, “Why do you cry? You were almost as wise as Moses and as kind as Abraham.” Reb Zusha answered, “When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly Tribunal, they won’t ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you as wise as Moses or as kind as Abraham,’ rather, they will ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you Zusha?’ Why didn’t I fulfill my potential, why didn’t I follow the path that could have been mine.

And from that we can all learn. How much of our days is spent as someone else who we think we should be as opposed to spending the time finding our our unique contribution? When you think big, aspiring to be someone great by being someone else is the way of the material world. The way of the spirit is to learn from Reb Zusha and think big for you, for your unique contribution.

The Tyranny of Advanced Degrees and Wealth

One of things that stymies the pursuit of many of my clients and patients from becoming their own authorities in their health is the “putting on a pedestal” of people with advanced degrees and wealth.   My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD would say that is like erecting an idol for yourself.  Experts with degrees are important only to the extent that they serves as resources for information and in some cases to be teachers to help you along the way.   What I tend to see happen is people tend to make those people more valuable than they are themselves.

As far as wealth goes, have you noticed how if Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk say something completely unrelated to their realm of expertise, it makes headlines?   They have money because they know how to make money through a select business or businesses.  That’s it.   Of course, some businesses do provide real value to society, but that doesn’t make the person with great wealth any more valuable than you and certainly no more qualified to make pronouncements about anything anymore than anyone else.  For some wealthy people, they just have a very narrow skill, that just happens to correlate with more money and does not relate in anyway to the level of wisdom they have in anything else.   

Additionally, many people with great “success” don’t even have great insight into why they are “successful.”   Robert Ringer makes note in his bombastically titled book “Winning by Intimidation” which should really be called “How to Win by Avoiding Being Intimidated” (though that wouldn’t sell as well) explains that one of the reasons that books on “success” are often all over the place in terms of recommendations is not only because the hard truth of “success” is often not sellable but also because many people with great “success,”  don’t actually have a lot of insight into why they are successful.

Bringing this back to health, (which as the cliche says, is actually a form of wealth), is that the whole edifice of modern medicine is structured as such a rigid hierarchy that it can often feel imposing and intimidating to people coming into it and how we ordinarily would act.   Hierarchy is after all, needed, it is required for a standard of care to be enforced but as we have spoken about elsewhere, this is the man- made world which tends to depersonalize people. When it comes to the real world of human beings no two of which are alike, there is bound to be some conflict if you insist on maintaining your freedom..   My father is also a medical doctor and taught me that my job is to serve the patient and earn their trust and respect.  The word Doctor comes from the root to teach.  Doctors are there to advise, teach, and gain your trust that they can help you while you maintain your freedom always, which is your God-given responsibility.  

I believe that a certain doctor coming into your life at a certain moment can often be a Divine intervention for your health but if anything that just means that you would be grateful to God for putting this person in your life to help you.   Your job during this process is to make sure you keep your freedom by reminding yourself that you know yourself better than anyone and not allow institutions even medical ones from taking away that uniqueness. 

In the immortal words of Hillel, which I think about often when this comes up and sums up how you should relate to yourself and others: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, and if I am only for myself what am I, and if not now when.” 

Image above by Democracy Chronicles

American Institute for Mental Imagery (AIMI)

I am pleased to announce Rachel, the wife of my beloved teacher of blessed memory, Jerry Epstein, MD is continuing his work. You can find my recollection of learning with Jerry here.

As Rachel writes “Founded on the principles of love and truth, Dr. Jerry Epstein, M.D. created the American Institute of Mental Imagery in 1982. Through his work, Dr. Epstein sought to empower people to be their own authorities, teaching them to access their inner wisdom in order to find answers to their mental, physical, and emotional difficulties. Teaching people how to use their minds to heal, AIMI is dedicated to extending tools and techniques of self-healing and self-realization to anyone, of any age, at all times. All are welcome. Classes can generally be joined at anytime at a prorated rate.”

If the above is of interest, reach out to for a full catalog. Or visit the AIMI site here. I can’t overestimate the value of the resources you will discover.

Image from page 32 of “The sage’s key to character at sight; special student’s course” (1919)

Clearing Your Bodily Awareness

You have a doctor inside you. For a great deal of health issues, your body is capable of telling you what is wrong and how to correct it. It is only capable of doing this however when the things that cloud your bodily awareness, your bodily perception can communicate to you through symptoms and sensations.

So what clouds your ability to “hear” the messages your body is sending you? Firstly, it is your lack of listening. In a prior post, I discussed how in North America, overwhelmingly we don’t use internal cues to stop eating. So, the first step is starting to listen and using internal cues, paying close attention to how you feel.

Unfortunately, most people have behaviors and ingest toxins that don’t allow them to sense what is going on in their bodies. A whole book could be written on this topic, especially how various cultures have tackled this subject. There is a deep wisdom in the body that is open to all of us to reclaim.

Alcohol, drugs, sugar, lack of proper sleep and rest, abnormal exposure to light, emotional stress, dehydration and even abnormal preoccupation with the past or some future event are just some of the factors that cloud your perception of what is going on in your body.

You task is to avoid getting bogged down in the details of science and learn to listen to the wisdom of the body. The Taoists have remarkable exercises where you actually work on each of the organs of your body and through work can learn to understand the signals of your organs. When it comes to longevity and learning how to listen to your body, the Taoist writings on health are by far the most advanced..

But you don’t need to be a Taoist master to learn to start listening. Just start listening. Pay attention to your body, your posture, how you feel, where you feel it, and what your body is telling you. Acknowledge that your body has an intelligence of its own, an amazing ability to adapt and try to achieve balance. It’s a miraculous creation. Most of what we complain about is an adaptation to some imbalance. In that knowledge, you can realize what your body wants for optimal health, balance. Now go and listen.

Image above by Benjamin Balázs

An Untapped Source of Strength

Whether you like it or not, you are probably 2-3 generations from someone of great faith. It could be your grandparents or great-grandparents who likely had a simple faith in God and derived incredible strength from that. In most ways, they had a much tougher life than we do these days. That is not to say that we don’t all have our difficulties, in fact as mentioned in a prior post, the quote “Be Kind for everyone is fighting a great fight” holds for all people at all time. It just reflects the nature of our lives on Earth.

You, possibly, may know more “things” but that doesn’t make you smarter than your ancestors. Popular culture loves to denigrate the beliefs of people just a generation or 2 ago. They judge people based on their knowledge and not their wisdom. The ancient Hebrew prophets and sages and the ancient Greek philosophers, had profound wisdom and trained in how to use their minds to probe eternal truths. There were many who toiled in having a simple faith and relationship with Divinity, they did this with a brilliance that is hard to find these days.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. You should know that besides the genetic inheritance of your ancestors, you possess a lot more. If you choose to access this, spend some time contemplating that there are great people behind you who survived and thrived who while no longer here in the physical remain connected to you. Thinking about them gives me great strength and motivation to face each day squarely. It also helps me stay on a balanced path in a crazy world.

Image above from from page 45 of “Religious emblems : being a series of engravings on wood, executed by the first artists of that line, from designs drawn on the blocks themselves” (1809)

Principles over Knowledge Any Day

“Beware; making many books has no end, and studying much is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12 Translation:

Nowhere is this more evident than on the internet.   Content creators just keep on creating.   New television shows on more stations, producing more and more content, on and on.   How much is wisdom over knowledge?   How much is principles over details?   How many options for diversion from reality?  A small amount of that is valuable art, but it is a very small amount as it always has been.  

The structures that exist in society largely don’t change.   The principles of wisdom have been with us for ages untold.  Yet, the value in the evolution of society is that there is always an opportunity to use what exists in the moment to teach wisdom, through analogy and parable.

And what about health and medicine?   It does progress and detail is important, for the experts, but often times you will find studies done that have the wrong premise to them, that there was a lack of wisdom in their construction.   It takes the real wise scientists to formulate general principles from the detailed knowledge that is published and to design studies where the right questions have been asked.

In my internship in Internal Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital and Princeton Hospital, we had several senior residents and attending physicians that had photographic memories.   It was astounding to interact with someone who could tell you the page in Harrison’s Textbook of Medicine that he just recited almost word for word pertaining to the diagnosis of the patient in front of us.   These doctors were, however, not the best doctors.  The best doctors were the one that could “see the forest for the trees” and would often have to look up details and supporting information.

In terms of your health, I often encounter people on my phone consultations that know much knowledge but lack wisdom in applying the knowledge in a balanced way to their health.   Often times, just using an analogy can bring many aha moments that put things into perspective.   The answer is rarely found by acquiring more knowledge. Knowing much is easy, it just takes time, acquiring wisdom and understanding principles comes through real toil.  

Details can be interesting, can be fun, but often times become distractions for learning what really matters in health which in its simplest description is learning the art of balance. 

Image above from the British Museum: in the public domain.

Longevity Madness: The Missing Piece

Image from an Intro to Zoology Textbook from 1889. Tortoise is one of the longest living creatures on earth,

The tech giants are investing in research labs that are focusing on finding novel new treatments to extend life. You have a new set of billionaires who want to live forever. I don’t blame them. Given optimal health, most of us would choose to extend our lives if we could. I know I would.

Besides this fact, the science is really fascinating. I am aligned very much with the founder of the Life Extension Foundation when he says that there are diseases of aging and if that is the case, isn’t biological aging a type of disease? I know how this sounds to some of you, like one is trying to reverse the natural order in some kind of perverse egotistical direction.

But let’s think about that for a moment. Just from a financial perspective, there are changes, like the loss of muscle called sarcopenia, that if that one thing were delayed would have enormous savings to our medical system. Obviously exercise is helpful but if other biological factors are identified that contribute to this wouldn’t it behoove us to treat that to prevent the enormous cost of broken hips and its subsequent sequelae. The same can be said for many different pathways in the body that start to go awry as we age, why must it go awry? Is it even ethical to allow to do so if we have treatments or lifestyle interventions that would help and would obviously lessen suffering?

Let’s just hope that along with the advancements and extension of life that come that along with the blessing of long life, that we have a corresponding increase in wisdom and people we can call sages. The last thing we need is 150 year olds who just want to be teenagers forever. A balanced approach would seek to not just work on the body but to correspondingly work on growing the depth and wisdom of the mind. Those teachings have been with us all along and they wait for the person who wishes to learn them. A blessing of greater life would give us more time to immerse ourselves in those teachings and to teach others, that to me would be an extended life worth living.

The “Man-Made” World of Medicine

Drawing above by Jason and Mary Hunt of Orlando.

Dr. Robert “Rhondell” Gibson explains that the “real world” is a world where no two people are alike and no standards can be held against anyone. It is the free association of people without expectation, standards, fully accepting that each of us is unique.

The “Man-Made” world is the world of institutions and games with rules (even traffic is a game in this definition and I would say the rules are valuable here). I will go further in depth into this in another post but suffice it to say, that when I see someone in my office as a patient, they come in through the man-made world, but the second the exam door closes and we are interacting, it is my aim to make sure the real-world holds sway.

I don’t recall if I mentioned on this new blog but as of now, I still do free phone consultations for people. The conversations range from guidance on nutrition, fasting strategies, weight loss, psoriasis, lupus, and of late, conversations on the use of mental imagery for healing trauma of the past that was taught to me from my teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD.

Yesterday, I spoke to a woman who contacted me on my FB page and set up a call with me. She was suffering from pain related to ovarian cysts. In the small town she lived in, she had very few consultations with specialists but she saw who was available.

In these situations, knowledge of the “man-made world” of modern medicine can help. After taking a full medical history, I explained to her a referral to the closest university hospital, about 80 miles from her, would be the next logical step. I explained to her why a university hospital setting could help her and gave her the exact wording to use to ask her doctor in such a way to elicit a referral. These words would tell him or her that she means business and understands fully her need for more opinions.

How often do we get caught up in the man-made world and forget the real world? There are so many things to remember to stay awake in our hypnotic society and here is another question to ask yourself as the day goes by : To what extent have I identified the man-made world I am working in and am I allowing it to dictate my behavior and thoughts? Am I capable of recognizing that the person in front of me is a real person of which no two are alike, completely unique?

It’s a cliche but nowhere is the following paraphrased quote more apropos that your aim might be “To be in the man-made world, but not of it” In other words, you might physically be in the man-made world most of the time, but your substance, your true essence is not of that world.

The path of Western spirituality is that we engage the man-made world fully but constantly remind ourselves to be awake and cognizant of who we really are. In this case, your knowledge of the man-made world can be of assistance to the people you associate with in the real world 🙂 Avoiding the man-made world for spiritual bliss and non-disturbance prevents you from making significant contributions to the lives of those around you and it is in those contributions that lies the greatest happiness.

Balanced Immersion

Yesterday evening around 6pm, I walked down to the beach and spent about an hour in the ocean. In Miami Beach, this time of year, the water is amazing. The water was so clear and there were so many fish you could see. My legs were acting like a mini-reef and I had around 15 fish around 4 – 5 inches long just hanging around my legs.

The sun was behind the clouds and it was absolutely silent and absolutely beautiful. While our souls may be altogether spiritual, we are born into these physical bodies that have resonance with the physical world that should be explored. Just like I think we are born into traditions for a reason that should be explored fully before jettisoning them for the allure of a “strange fire.”

The great physician and rationalist philosopher Maimonides believed that the Earth itself had a consciousness. In the last century, the scientist, James Lovelock introduced the Gaia hypothesis partly said something similar. BBC podcast – Discovery, one of my favorites, had a great interview with him last week. He is 100 years old.

There are so many aspects of our health to be conscious of, that I may forget the need for immersion in nature on a regular basis, hopefully it doesn’t take a rare transcendent ideal moment like yesterday to remind me. Immersion in nature on a regular basis, is after all, the balanced approach.

Processed vs Unprocessed

Just because it sounds unprocessed according to the conventional definition, doesn’t mean your body reacts to it as if it were.  

Case in point is dried fruit.   Just imagine, how likely is it for you to eat 5 plums in one sitting, but 5 prunes?  Easy!  Congratulations you just downed the sugar in 5 prunes when the natural form would have prevented you from it.   

A little honey is fine, but it is still a concentrated form of sugar. Processed from many flowers by the bee.    Fruit juice is processed even if you make it at home.  Why?  You removed all the fiber.

Conventional store bought meat and chicken?  Processed!   It’s been fed food that it was never intended to eat and turned into something different on the micro and macro nutrient level.  It just looks unprocessed, it’s not.

Farmed fish?  Same thing, processed or I should I say (altered).   Now, unfortunately, we have to be concerned with environmental alterations also.  Some wild fish potentially could have more toxins than farmed fish.   Solution, only eat the low mercury fish,(SMASH : salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring) farmed fish, no more than once per month or eat none.   Same goes with the conventional store bought meat, no more than once a month.    Most people eat way too much animal protein to begin with.   General guidelines on that in another post.

And what about the rest of the pillars : Environment, Mental State, and Movement / Mechanics?  We can discuss those another time but the analogy of processed vs unprocessed works there also.